Media Multitasking: Problematic for Some, Beneficial for Others
A study in Computers in Human Behavior among young adults shows that media multitasking and intense digital media use have negative consequences for their psychological well-being. Interestingly, there are some exceptions. Young adults who are socially anxious and narcissistic seem to benefit from media multitasking.
- Among young adults, media multitasking and intense digital media use relate to lower levels of psychological well-being.
- There are not only disadvantages to media multitasking, for some young adults it can also have benefits for their well-being. For example, young adults with high levels of social anxiety and narcissism benefit from media multitasking
What is the impact of media multitasking and intense digital media use on the psychological well-being of ethnically diverse young adults and what role do social anxiety and narcissism play in this?
263 young adults (mean age: 21 years; 50% female);
22% Asian/Asian American, 4% Black/African American, 54% Latinx/Hispanic, 10% Mixed/Other; 4% Native Pacific; 6% White
Participants filled out an online questionnaire about their experience with digital media (e.g., “How much time do you typically spent using the Internet?”) and their media multitasking behavior (e.g. “How much of that time are you typically engaged in other media simultaneously?”). In addition, the questionnaire assessed intensity of digital media use (e.g., “I feel out of touch when I haven't gone online or texted someone on my cellphone for a while.”), emotional experiences (i.e., experience of feeling emotions) self-esteem (e.g., “At times, I think I am no good at all.”), social anxiety (e.g., “I become tense if I have to talk about my feelings.”) and narcissism (e.g., “I can make anybody believe anything I want them to.”).
Facts and findings
- Young adults who used digital media intensively experienced higher levels of negative affect.
- Young adults who often engaged in media multitasking had lower self-esteem and higher levels of negative affect.
- Especially gaming predicted lower self-esteem and higher levels of negative affect.
- There were exceptions:
- Media multitasking related to a higher self-esteem and more positive affect for those young adults reporting high levels of social anxiety.
- Media multitasking related to a higher level of positive affect for those young adults reporting high levels of narcissism.
- Critical Note: No conclusions can be drawn about cause (e.g., media multitasking) and effect (e.g., young adults’ well-being). This study only shows that intense digital media use and media multitasking are negatively related to psychological well-being.